Learning how to love.

What do I do with what I am learning?

That’s a significant question. We consume immense amounts of information. We read. We hear. We converse.

But then we have to live.

Some of us are very comfortable keeping the input and the output separate. Some of us avoid the hard work of taking the interesting ideas we hear and the fascinating role models we read about and working to understand how all of that would work in real life, in our lives.

But you know what? Most of us actually are trying to make a connection. Most of us are attempting to change, to grow, to deepen. We are attempting, like the wise man, to hear the words of Jesus and put them into practice.

I mean, when we read that Jesus says,

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

we do it.

  • We listen to someone who annoys us and we say, “what would it look like to love this person in the way Jesus loves me?”
  • We think, “what specific loving action can I do?”
  • We pick one “another” out of all of the “anothers” in our life and we identify one specific action today that will prefer them to us and then we make sure that we do that one specific action today.
  • We don’t look for the most extreme, most “anyone but that person” person, but we start with the first name and action that comes to mind when we say, “So God. Who would you like to love through me today?”
  • Right after we read this post, we pick up the phone or we put down the keyboard or we pick up the floor.

As optimistic as this list is, it illustrates that love is hard. It’s tongue-chewingly, ego-brutalizingly, priority-devastatingly hard. Walk backwards with me through John 13, what Jesus said and did before he said love one another.

  • Right before Jesus gave his new command, to love one another in the same way he had loved them, Judas left the room, slipping away, arousing no suspicions.
  • Right before that, Jesus let Judas know that he knew what Judas was up to. He defined a secret sign and then calmly offered it to Judas. And with the sign being food, it means that he offered hospitality, a gift.
  • Right before that, it was clear that no one else suspected Judas. Everyone wondered who it could be. Each one asked about himself.
  • Right before that, Jesus washed the feet of each disciple, including Judas.

judasJesus left Judas no reason for betrayal, at least not in terms of personal treatment that night. There were likely philosophical disagreements. Judas argued that money wasted on perfume could have been spent on the poor. There were certainly ethical disagreements. Judas wanted to steal the money from the poor. But after all the high moral posturing and low moral behavior, this one thing is true. Jesus treated Judas exactly the same as the rest of the disciples that night, with the respect and service which characterize his love.

Of course, all of the disciples would be gone before the evening was over. All would walk or run or deny. All of them would be completely human, completely like us.

As you walk into this weekend before Easter week, with time, perhaps, for more reflection than usual, reflect on a couple ideas:

  • If you wonder whether Jesus loves you, look at how he treated Judas.
  • If you ever wonder whether you can love, ask the one who treated Judas that way for help.

First published August 19-20, 2010

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.